About the Artist
Benjamin B. Olshin was born in the United States, but he has spent much of his life abroad. He began with a university trip in 1983 to Sri Lanka for a program in indigenous development, and then a stay in Italy, where he took courses in archaeology and history. He later attended the Rhode Island School of Design programme in Rome, doing a series of watercolour paintings and drawings there.
Following graduation from Williams College in 1985, he went to Surrey, England, where he taught watercolour painting, calligraphy, and crafts. Later, he attended AR.CO (Centro de Arte e Comunicaçâo Visual) in Lisbon, Portugal, taking courses in abstract sculpture and design. The American Cultural Center in Lisbon put on an exhibit of his watercolour paintings and pen-and-ink sketches in 1986. In 1987 and 1988, he worked as a designer for an architectural firm in Philadelphia.
From late 1988 to 1993, he completed his M.A. and Ph.D. in the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (I.H.P.S.T.), at the University of Toronto, in September of 1993. His dissertation involved the history of cartography, examining early maps and sea charts. During these years, he also completed a series of watercolours in Toronto.
In the summer of 1989, Dr. Olshin did design and drafting work for an architecture firm in São Paulo, Brazil. The summers of 1990 and 1991 were spent in Tokyo, Japan, working for a firm there, designing, drafting, building architectural models, and doing restoration work. He also travelled through other parts of Japan during this period, and then journeyed to Hong Kong and Tahiti, doing numerous sketches, watercolours, and oil paintings.
Dr. Olshin received his M.A. and Ph.D. in 1993 from the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto, where he had carried out research on early maps and cartography. A Fulbright grant in 1992 had allowed him to spend a year in Portugal, where he conducted studies in the history of catrography and exploration, and did a series of drawings and paintings in Lisbon and along the Portuguese coast.
In his position as an Associate Professor of Fine Arts and Design at Ming Chuan University in Taipei, Taiwan from 1993 to 1996, Dr. Olshin developed and taught a variety of courses in the area of fine arts and design, including drawing, painting, model-making, and the history of design.
Upon his return to the U.S., Dr. Olshin taught courses in model-making, painting and drawing, Renaissance design and engineering, Asian art history, and a number of other areas at various schools in San Francisco and Philadelphia from 1996 to 2004.
In the summer of 2001, Dr. Olshin received a grant to travel through western Turkey, where he did a number of sketches, finished drawings, and paintings. In 2004, under an NEH grant, Dr. Olshin studied history, indigenous art, and craft traditions in Ghana, West Africa. There, he completed an extensive illustrated journal, as well as a watercolour series. In 2007, he won a second NEH grant, and studied Chinese philosophy at the East-West Center and the University of Hawaii. While there, he again put together a journal and a series of watercolour sketches.
Other recent travels have included Singapore, Indonesia, and a return to Brazil, all trips that have led to new drawings and paintings.
Since 2004, Dr. Olshin has been an Associate Professor of Philosophy, History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, and Design, at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He also gives outside lectures and workshops on Chinese philosophy, Chinese and Japanese art, and the philosophy of fine art, design, and the creative process. The current focus of his own artwork is watercolour and pencil drawing, particularly what he calls "imaginary landscapes", as well as craft work in wood and paper.
The Spiral Staircase in the Ruins in Merida, Spain
Benjamin B. Olshin
(watercolor and pencil on paper)
A stylized Chinese teapot design for fabrication in glass
Benjamin B. Olshin
(marker on paper)
Japanese "hana" fan
Benjamin B. Olshin
(wood, paper, and bamboo)